CAPE TOWN - In any other season, Ajax Cape Town head coach Stanley Menzo would definitely be facing the chop.
After just two wins in 11 games, and precariously placed third-from-bottom on the PSL standings, the heat is most certainly on, especially after yet another defeat in going down 1-0 to SuperSport United in Nelspruit on Wednesday night.
But this has been such a bizarre season that, despite Ajax’s woes, Menzo still has some breathing room. In a draw-riddled campaign, all 16 clubs are still within touching distance of each other on the league standings. In fact, the gap between log leaders Baroka FC and last-placed Bidvest Wits is a mere 10 points. In short, just two wins and the basement teams are right up there among the challengers.
As such, for Menzo, there is still time to turn things around - but it will have to happen sooner rather than later. The Cape side cannot afford to fall behind any further. On the plus side, there has been improvement in recent weeks. Last week’s 2-2 draw with AmaZulu was promising and so, too, was the second-half display against SuperSport. If Menzo can get his players to perform with greater consistency, then a turnaround may not be too far off.
Menzo, of course, is fully aware of the perilous nature of his job situation. Having played at the highest level of the sport for Ajax Amsterdam and the Netherlands national team, he understands the position he finds himself in. He knows the buck stops with him - and it’s up to him, as coach, to find solutions to the team’s problems.
“In this game, there is always pressure,” he said after the SuperSport defeat. “When you win, there’s pressure - and, when you lose, there’s pressure. It’s normal in sports. I know what it is, so we deal with it. There are certain things I can do and there are certain things I can’t do. I am focused on the things I can do and the rest we will have to see.”
In addition to Ajax’s struggles to win football games, Menzo now also has to deal with a few player issues. On Tuesday, his second-half substitution of right-back Rheece Evans led to a bit of a brouhaha on the bench.
Afterwards, Menzo downplayed the situation, saying that Evans had been battling with injury - but, based on the body language of the coach and the player’s angry verbal response, it would appear that there was a lot more to it.
So everything looks to be coming to a head for Menzo. The results aren’t forthcoming, the performances are erratic and, now, there’s even some dissension in the squad. As a consequence, Ajax’s next two fixtures - Wits (away next Wednesday) and Chippa United (home) - are crucial for both the coach and the team: it’s time to shape up or ship out.